Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Managing a Public Force

Favoring close friends and relatives and extending protection to persons found to be towing the line can set bad signals in any institution including that of the United States federal service. Several studies have been conducted since the 80s with the most notable one being the Volcker Commission that was given the task of finding solutions to the poor state of affairs in many federal offices and their service personnel (Lane, Wolf, & Woodard, 2002). Formerly crafted as a competent force that was to provide the best applicable service to the republic, the U.S. federal service employees’ commitment to work ethics and obligation to the service of the nation dwindled such that, research conducted to tame such anomalies, uncovered fundamentally intractable problems that went unnoticed for many years. Some important aspects that may be blamed for the decline of the federal service include poor strategic planning initiatives that remained in place for a long time and neglect of performance management (Lee & Jimenez, 2010). Deficiency of knowledge and lack of the relevant skills needed to perform primary tasks and work incompetence are some other vital signs that continue to resonate in many federal offices.

In modern governance, professionally managing a public workforce requires a working knowledge of organizational management. According to Rosenbloom, Kravchuk, and Clerkin (2009), those holding top positions in government usually hail from the middle class even though, in the early years of the federal government formation, they tended to have been drawn from the upper class. Leaving public administration in the hands of a class that shares common interest, heritage, race, and religion is against the equal employment opportunity policies and guidelines set forth as a guiding beacon for the United States and contrary to state laws and stipulations. It sets a bad precedent for any healthy democracy especially when career federal employees engage in corruption and subversion. When top echelons of the state accord career federal employees assured safety and protection, established norms and values diminish from daily official practices. Often, there are political downfalls associated with abuse of public trust. Safeguarding an incompetent workforce could result in loss of prestige and dignity for top officials.

Corruption and subversion may be a problem in the U.S., but elsewhere in developing countries, it is business as usual. In some third world countries, notably in Asia and Africa, accumulation of wealth and property become the main priority for incumbents until the arrival of a successor. Those having power of authority may construct houses within short periods or buy them in cash and grab farmlands from original owners before vacating office. Accepting gifts in return for a favor is contrary to the customs of public administration. According to Lewis and Cho (2011), a tsunami of American federal career employees continue to age every year with no replacement of fresh blood in sight. The authors argue that many federal employees in the top hierarchy and those holding important occupations will retire soon even though strategic alternative sources have not been put together so far. Regardless of stringent regulations, public officials, whether in developing or developed countries, continue to engage in official malpractices on a daily basis. Embezzlement of state coffers, abuse of office, and granting of governmental contracts in return for hefty commissions, will have to addressed and tackled as the world moves to a globalized form of governance.


Lane, L.M., Wolf, J.F., & Woodard, C. (2002). Reassessing the human resources crisis in the public service, 1987-2002. The American Review of Public Administration. Vol. 33, No. 2, 123-145. DOI: 10.1177/0275074003251625.

Lee, G. & Jimenez, B.S.  (2010).   Does performance management affect job turnover intention in the Federal Government? The American Review of Public Administration 41(2) 168-184. DOI: 10.1177/0275074010368991

Lewis, G.B. & Cho, Y.J. (2011). The aging of the state government workforce:
Trends and implications. The American Review of Public Administration.
41(1) 48–60.

Rosenbloom, D., Kravchuck, R., & Clerkin, R. (2009). Public administration: Understanding management, politics, and law in the public sector (7th ed). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

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